Academic AWOL: USF Fires Chancellor For Fleeing To Atlanta During Hurricane Irma

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 8.44.51 PM.pngUSFSP regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska has been fired after the school learned that she went to Atlanta to ride out Hurricane Irma while allegedly suggesting that she was still at her post in St. Petersburg.  USFSP regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska was cited for her alleged incompetence and “lack of leadership” — a view of System President Judy Genshaft that some on campus contested.


Genshaft indicated that she was led to believe that Wisniewska was still on campus during the emergency.  She says that Wisniewska appeared hesitant to order an evacuation of the campus and to close the dormitories.  By delaying the decision, Wisniewska was accused by Genshaft of creating “an intolerable safety risk to our students and the USFSP community.”

download-3Wisniewska denies the allegations and says that she pushed early on for a campus closure.  However, when Irma turned toward St. Petersbury, Genshaft says that she expected action from Wisniewska.  She wrote to her to move to close the campus, but Wisniewska alleged resisted.  On September 9th, Genshaft wrote to ask “What is your current status as you settle in for the next couple days?” Late that night Wisniewska responded that “As I walked around the USFSP campus, I heard more birds chirping than students talking” and said she that had talked to a student studying for a test. After recounting how she peeked into a campus bar, she said “All quiet before the storm.” The next morning Wisniewska wrote again to report on the status of the campus.  She then wrote “Stay safe. P.S. Last night, I arrived in Atlanta, where I will stay for the next two days.” That led to the chief of staff asking “Are you in St. Pete?”

Wisniewska is suggesting that it was Genshaft who waffled on closure that that she kept in close contact with campus by teleconference and later chartered a private plane to return .

Faculty and students appear to hold Wisniewska in high regard and there does not appear to have been a hue and cry for termination.  She — and her supporters — contest that she failed in any respect during the hurricane and merely followed the general advice of the government to evacuate the area.


24 thoughts on “Academic AWOL: USF Fires Chancellor For Fleeing To Atlanta During Hurricane Irma”

  1. I suspect there is more to this than the current accusation that led to her termination.

  2. There seem to be no end of stories about people getting away with horse-excrement, yet keeping their jobs. And people fired for very dubious reasons. What a world !

  3. If she thought it was unsafe for her to stay, then it should have been the same decision for her students. I support her supervisor’s decision to fire her.

  4. Sophia Wisniewska should hook up with Susan Maldin who has degrees in music composition. Susan is the “Chief Security Officer” at Equifax. As far as emergencies & safety risks goes…..Sorry can’t help you, you’re on your own.

  5. They used to make chicken s*it leaders walk outward from Rome without food and water for a long long way, mostly they died. She should take a hike, perhaps charter a private plane, on her own dime. With great power, comes great responsibility. Spiderman’s uncle.

  6. She didn’t misrepresent her location, she just wasn’t explicit in her evening message on 9 September that she’d already left. She was explicit the next morning. It’s a reasonable inference she took a plane to Atlanta, so she could have been on campus < 2 hours before she sent her 9 September email. It does seem rather cheesy that she left the area if the campus was not closed. I'm betting her superordinate would have let it slide had the personal relations between the two been better. Girls in supervisor-subordinate relationships commonly dislike each other.

    1. Her photo shows a middle-aged woman, not a “girl.” I assume you’re really old, as I’ve heard old people refer to women as girls, gals or chicks. The funniest one was an elderly neighbor when I was a kid who referred to young women as “tomatoes.” At the time, I was confused by it, but looking back, he just seems like a comical relic.

      1. Her photo shows a middle-aged woman, not a “girl.”

        I see you suffer from a horrid case of literal-mindedness.

      2. TIN – I do have a tendency to refer to any female at least 30 years younger than me as a girl. 🙂

        1. Okay, what do you call an old, female, Polish-American who has gone AWOL? I’m sure there’s a joke in there…😉

  7. I think the college students, as young adults, were capable of making their own decisions about whether to stay or leave. Surely they had access to CNN or other media that would allow them to assess the situation. If this woman was required to be on duty, and left for Atlanta while falsely representing that she was still on campus, then she should be fired for dishonesty. But she is not required to endanger herself; if she reasonably needed to evacuate, she shouldn’t be punished, so long as she was honest about her whereabouts.

    1. There would likely have been employees left on campus – security personnel and B & G people.

    2. CNN would not have known about campus security and that would would only from school, Hurricane issue aside, I am talking about personal security and no one being around. It can get spooky.

  8. She runs like a bunny and then waffles about her students clearly the campus? She is butter-side down toast. I have heard of leadership from the front but this is ridiculous. Yes, yes, yes I support her firing.

  9. Should have better standing plans in place.

    Well, better keep the texts on the second floor…

  10. It could have been a disaster, the person who is deciding whether to evacuate or not isn’t there to make the call.

    1. A relation of mine resident in Honolulu pointed out the tsunami warning sirens installed along the road. He tells me they test them periodically, and that in lieu of a siren there’s a recording that says “Too Late! Too Late! Too Late!”. There comes a point when the authorities tell you to shelter in place and ride it out as best you can. Had that point arrived, it would not have much mattered had she been there or not.

      I do think that if she had security personnel and B & G employees still on campus, she should have been there with them, along with the chief of security and the director of physical plant.

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